Gallery: Thousands watch annual raft races in Hadleigh and Needham Market

The annual Raft Race held at Needham Lake entertains the traditionally large crowd on Sunday.

The annual Raft Race held at Needham Lake entertains the traditionally large crowd on Sunday. The Dreamflight charity raft the Naughtonator - Credit: Archant

Rafters raced, paddled and swam for their shot at glory at the annual Needham Market Raft Race yesterday.

Thousands of people lined the banks of Needham Lake to watch the 13 teams battle it out over several time trial heats and one final race.

The home-built boats and their four-person crews ranged from the young and inexperienced to older and wiser, including veterans of nine races, the Four Non Bonds.

The day was “blessed” with sunshine, and the gusting winds were not strong enough to cause too much difficulty on the water.

Needham’s race, which has become a yearly fixture since was first hosted for the Golden Jubilee in 2002, was not the only wild and wet event on Sunday, with Hadleigh’s annual Duck and Raft Race also drawing the crowds on the River Brett.

Needham race organiser Dawn Winder said: “We have been going 14 years now – we have become a bit of a Needham Market institution.

“It is a really well supported event and these days we have a lot of charities holding stalls and most of the teams are running for charity as well.

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“It does something positive as well being a lot of fun for everyone. The weather has been great today, but we do always seem to do alright in recent years.

“There must be thousands of people here – the turnout has been brilliant.”

The eventual winner of the race, which had an Alice in Wonderland theme were last year’s champions Booze Cruise, with Four Non Bonds in second and Buildbase in third.

The Four Non Bonds, made up of Dan Mason, Gary Harrison, Stephen Boyce and David Fryatt, took home the fancy dress and fastest lap prizes, while also being one of the oldest teams competing.

Dan said: “This is our ninth race. For the last three years or so we have been supporting the Fresh Start New Beginnings Charity, raising about £400 so far at this race. It is a fantastic event.”

The boat was built by David, who also dressed as Alice for the day. He said: “I put about 10 hours into building it and we spent about 10 hours thinking it up.”

The not-so-prepared Futter-waka team, from the adventure company Xplore, at Walnutree Manner, took the boat-building down to the wire.

Members Jason Stuart, Kris Mitchell, Ben Saville and Ash Hendry were lashing their raft together on the banks of the lake this morning.

Jason said: “We were the only team that built the raft on the day, but we build rafts all the time for work. I guess we should be doing really well, but were not. The raft is sturdy though.”